2016 Martin Ray Stags Leap Merlot
Sourced from the same vineyard on an adjacent block to our Reserve Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, the volcanic alluvial soil that makes up the foothills of the Vaca Mountains provides the same ideal growing conditions to produce an outstanding Merlot. The exposure of the vineyard creates a dramatic warming and cooling effect during the summer months, which in turn, stresses the vines causing them to produce small, dense clusters intense in color and flavor.
Much to the delight of both grape growers and winemakers, the 2016 vintage carried through from beginning to end, with ideal conditions and ideal results. Long-awaited rainfall during the winter and early spring replenished desperate reservoirs and ground water, easing the concerns generated by several years of drought conditions. The summer was kind, with only minimal spikes, carrying over into a true Indian Summer. The fruit experienced temperatures above normal, and the mornings foggy and cool throughout the peak month of September, permitting us to take our time in evaluating and calling picks at their optimal maturity. Nature patiently waited for us to bring in our final lots before returning with the rain that has traditionally been the signal for the end of the harvest season.
Hand-picked, sorted, and destemmed into small open-top fermenters, our Merlot is coldsoaked for four days, then fermented at warm temperatures. The cap is managed by gentle pumpovers for the purpose of preventing the over-extraction of tannins, and maintaining a rich body and fruit-forward palate. After reaching dryness, the wine is allowed extended maceration for up to 28 days with minimal disturbance. It is then gently basket pressed to 55% new French oak, with a very small portion of American oak for nuance, where it is aged for 16 months.
Floral violets bring out abundant tones of blackberry, red and black currant, with a finesse of sweet, wild blueberry. Sinewy tannins frame piquant notes of Padron peppers, Tellicherry pepper and toasted graham cracker. Serious but approachable, this Merlot will leave any red wine lover satiated and wanting more.